The jewelry-like silica gel beads are a desiccant, a category of materials used to keep products dry by attracting water to their surface (meaning they adsorb, not absorb, moisture). Their moisture-wicking power makes silica gel packets immensely appealing to manufacturers, preventing water damage in products in transit or sitting on store shelves.
What is silica gel and how is silica gel made
Although silica (silicon dioxide) gel doesn’t grow on trees, the porous mineral does come from the ground. Silica is harvested through a “straightforward” mining process using open pits or dredging, according to Robert Goodin, a mineral commodity specialist with the US Geological Survey’s National Minerals Information Center.
They are made through a process involving sodium silicate and acid. An aqueous solution of sodium silicate is acidified to produce a gelatin mixture. The mixture is washed, then dehydrated to produce colorless silica gel.
Uses for old silica gel packets
Below are various uses for old, discarded silica gel (desiccant) packets.
- Protect important papers (passports, birth certificates, insurance policies).
- Protect paper-based heirlooms such as photo
- Protect film and videotapes
- Protect moisture sensitive electronics such as cameras and computers
- Add a few packs to your backpack to keep everything inside dry
- Protect metal tools, razors from rust and tarnish.
- Dry out wet gear such as swimming suits, tents, luggage, sleeping bags
- Store with ammo to prevent rusting
- Dry out sweaty sport gear such as shoes, socks (they reduce odor too)
- Protect seasonal clothing and material such as holiday sweaters, winter clothes, blankets
- Protect leather products which are sensitive to moisture and rain
- Store them with seeds to prevent mold
- Protect dehydrated food. Despite their ominous, all-caps warnings about consumption, silica gel packets are generally considered non-toxic. The real concern is the size of the beads—it’s pretty easy for a child to choke on the packet or the beads within it
- Use as an insecticide. silica works as an insecticide for indoor and outdoor uses in powdered form on “stored grain, other food, feed and ornamentals; in food handling areas; and on pets and their living/sleeping quarters
Recycling old silica gel packets
Silica gel packets can be regenerated after they have absorbed moisture. Expose them to high heat (about 200 degrees is fine) for a few hours to dry them out. Even laying them out in the hot sun will regenerate a silica gel packet. Once regenerated, store them in airtight Ziploc bags until they are needed.
Image CreditsWhite non-indicating silica gel desiccant moisture control beads via Agm with usage type - Product photo (Fair Use)
Silica gell beads desiccant packets via Amazon with usage type - Product photo (Fair Use)